The week-long race from Paris to Nice pits two of the best, if not the two best, riders against each other. It is possible to make the case that either Tadej Pogacar or Jonas Vingegaard is the best rider in the world. However, there is little doubt that Vingegaard has the better team in his Jumbo-Visma teammates. This was illustrated yesterday in the team tactics. UAE-Team Emirates riders did as much work as they could for Pogacar before leaving him finish the stage alone. By contrast, Vingegaard crossed the line with two teammates and all three had a faster time than Pogacar. This tilted the advantage to Vingegaard but the gap would have been bigger if Pogacar had to wait for a few of his teammates to cross the line with him.
Last year I wrote about how the 2022 version of La Vuelta provided an ideal set of illustrations for economists. Within that stage race there was individual time trial where individuals had to optimise like the textbook Robinson Crusoe on his island, there was a team time trial that presented individuals with a cooperation problem, and the majority of road stages involved a combination of competition and cooperation. The team time trial differentiated the 2022 La Vuelta from the other Grand Tours of 2022. The warm reception to yesterday’s format change suggests that the experiment will be repeated. More illustrations for economists.